Mugabe’s Jozi visit causes a stir

BY DANIEL MOLOKELE JOHANNESBURG - This past week Zimbabweans here received an unexpected visit from the man they all love to hate. The president of their original country, one Robert Mugabe, slipped into the city in a rather surreptitious manner. The low profile visit was totally out of character

by the only ruler Zimbabweans have known since independence in 1980.

What made the visit even more fascinating was the fact that even the normally dynamic paparazzi of the South African media were caught flat-footed. Mugabe managed to drive through the streets of Johannesburg and was even rumoured to have momentarily gotten lost. It is said that his rather serene motorcade initially went to Milpark Hospital before being redirected to the Garden City Clinic in central Johannesburg.

The purpose of his impromptu visit to the private clinic was shrouded in mystery. The media was left abuzz with speculations but with no authoritative facts. The rumour mill went into full gear! Some said he had suffered a nervous breakdown! Others said he was on a routine neurological check up, an assertion that was vehemently denied by the clinic’s management. There were also suggestions that he had visited a seriously ill family relative. (This was later confirmed by a statement from Leoni Beaurain, General Manager of Garden City Clinic who said Mugabe and his wife Grace had visited the hospital on Thursday and Friday to see a relative of Grace, who was a patient there.)

Another variation was that he had briefly visited a critically ill Cabinet Minister (name supplied!)

Just as enigmatically as he has left all of us trying to explain why he has overstayed so much in power, the sleek Mugabe clandestinely left the country unceremoniously. But not before a journalist claimed to have met him on his way out of the clinic via the backstairs! But just like that, the wily Mugabe had come and gone!

His brief visit obviously left a bitter sour taste in many of his fellow country persons’ now based here in Jozi. He was less than 15 minutes walk away from Hillbrow. Imagine, just a small detour would have been enough for him to see the plight of thousands of his own people. But Mugabe chose to be whisked away in top secrecy.

It’s not often that a head of state visits a neighbouring country in such a low profile manner. Especially in the case of your average African leader, whose penchant for pomp and ceremony is legendary.

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